Too much rain too fast
CHAMPAIGN — For the residents of a couple of blocks of Clover Lane in southwest Champaign, flooding is not new.
“This is the third time I’ve seen it like this,” said Jay Jackson, who has lived in the 1700 block of Clover Lane for 15 years.
“This is the first time I’ve seen it like this in the daytime,” he said late Saturday morning, surveying the lake where his street had been visible only hours before.
Once before, Jackson said he “lost a car” as he made the 90-degree turn at the end of his block to the 1600 block of Clover Lane and ran into high standing water “just like I was driving into Crystal Lake. There was nothing I could do because the lighting on that corner is not that good.”
A couple of doors down, neighbor Mike Young’s 8-year-old Golden Lab, Buck, was having a heyday swimming in the street as garbage cans and other debris floated around him.
“He’d rather swim than eat,” said Young, who guessed this is the fourth time in 15 years he’s seen such flooding. “There’s only two little drains. They just can’t handle it.”
David and Cindy Lashbrook, 46-year residents, agreed.
“It was up to the bottom of the mailbox,” Cindy Lashbrook said of Saturday’s deluge.
Champaign Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt said 4 inches of rain fell between 6 and 10 a.m., prompting him and his wife to get out with rakes to help clear inlets in that part of town.
Urbana Operations Manager John Collins said there were 4 to 7 inches of rain Saturday morning in Urbana, depending on whose rain gauge you believe.
“It’s nearly under control,” he said mid-afternoon. “The sewers are just not designed to handle this much water this fast. A lot of vegetation debris flows out of yards and ends up covering some storm sewers.”
Champaign public works crews were busy much of the day, first putting up barricades to keep motorists from venturing onto flooded streets.
Later, they worked to clear inlets, then helped citizens who had drains “surcharging” into their basements, said Ernesto Salinas, the city’s operations manager.
Surcharge happens when the flow of water cannot be contained within the piped system so it escapes through the nearest low point.
“We’re going to have crews working around the clock to deal with that,” Salinas said.
Schmidt said probably the deepest area of flooding was the Healey Street Detention Basin, which had 40 feet of water — because the system was working.
In the past, Green Street and Springfield Avenue near the University of Illinois were among the hardest hit by heavy rains, but improvements in engineering there, including the basin and park improvements, handled the flow, Schmidt said.
“All the Boneyard improvements worked perfectly,” he said.
Not so north of University Avenue, Schmidt added.
The Washington Street viaduct and the intersections of Russell and Washington, Market and Columbia, and Bradley and Market were still covered more than two hours after the rain stopped.
The intersection of Bradley Avenue and McKinley Street was still deeply flooded after 3 p.m.
The area needs engineering improvement, Schmidt said, and studies have begun. The public works department intends to “have a conversation with the council” about beginning the work in 2016, he said.
Likewise, many of the streets in the Dobbins Downs area of northwest Champaign were underwater.
“There’s just no drainage up in that area,” Schmidt observed.
Tracy Wingler, maintenance supervisor for the Champaign County Highway Department, said it appeared Champaign and Urbana were hit harder than other parts of the county, although one of his workers from Mahomet reported getting 6 inches of rain. There were flooded streets west of Bondville.
After scouting much of the county for several hours, Wingler said it looked like the rain fell along a line from Mahomet in the northwest to Sidney in the southeast, soaking Champaign and Urbana in between.
“In Sadorus, Ivesdale, they didn’t get hardly any rain,” he said.
Linda Ryan has lived at the corner of South Prospect Avenue and Bloomfield Court in south Champaign 30 years. Her cul-de-sac was underwater Saturday morning, something she’d never seen before.
Farther south, a few residents of the Arbour Meadows subdivision in Savoy found their sump pumps overwhelmed and water in their basements.
“It was more than just a soaked carpet. It wasn’t standing water or ankle deep, just a pain in the neck,” said Audrey Vallance.
And for several hours, there was too much water across the southern entrance to the Savoy Wal-Mart to allow customers in there.